The Cyprus Antiquities Department, supported by members of the Defence Archaeological Group, have been excavating a 7th century Basilica in the area of RAF Akrotiri recently.
The excavation, which is now in sixth year, is a significant discovery and as experts continue to unearth more of the ancient ruin, there is enough evidence to suggest it was a building of enormous importance.
The huge site, estimated to have been the size of Westminster Abbey, which the Antiquities Department dates back to approximately 616, is believed to have been a holding area for holy relics brought over from Jerusalem and boasts an incredible wealth of stunning mosaics – now protected with special gravel – marble, gold leaf trimmings, bronze and statues.
And according to Eleni Procopiou, an area officer for the Antiquities Department, its discovery should not be underestimated.
She gushed: “This literally helps us understand and re-write the history of the 7th century in Cyprus. We estimate that after its construction, it had a very short life-span of approximately 30 years before it was abandoned and destroyed. This was a very important place and housed the relics of some very important people.
“We have made some hugely significant findings during the excavation, it is very exciting.”
Given the discovery was made within the SBAs it comes as no surprise that there is involvement from Forces personnel, through Operation Nightingale, a scheme set up to help injured servicemen and women, which as trooper Danny Simpson explained, is an excellent opportunity to help him start enjoying life again.
“I was injured during training and was medically discharged,” he explained. “I think it is pretty awesome to be honest (the excavation). I actually can’t wait to start university. This is probably the happiest I have been since because it is something that is 1,400 years old and I am the first person to see that.”
One supporter of the scheme is somewhat of a household name in the UK, Phil Harding, a British archaeologist, who works on Channel 4’s highly-popular Time Team show.
Speaking to Carla Prater from BFBS TV, he explained how much he enjoyed sharing his passion for archaeology: “It is through something like Operation Nightingale that I can actually share that passion with somebody else. People who have never done it before and actually feel it is beneficial, not just for the archaeology but for actual people’s lives for what they are doing and for their future wellbeing and when you look at it like that it is actually quite humbling.”
The Cyprus Department of Antiquities dedicated seven members of its team to the excavation and they were supported by 10 British university students, on top of those from Operation Nightingale.